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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dear Neighbor,

Before we get into this week’s legislative news and notes, I would like to issue my heartfelt condolences in the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s passing. Right, wrong or indifferent, the man’s ability to draw 20 million listeners per week commands respect for the niche he carved out behind the mic. RIP, Rush, RIP.

As for an update from the House:

Back to school 

Last week, the governor said Republican efforts to reopen our schools was a charade. This week, he said it’s time for students to get back in the classroom. It’s interesting that he changed his tune so dramatically in such a short time.

In any case, the governor unveiled his plan to get more middle- and high-school students back in the classroom – with a target of all schools offering some form of in-person learning by March 8.

While it makes for nice headlines, the plan is not a major shift from current practice. It also does not incentivize districts to reopen if they are currently in distance or hybrid learning.

We need to safely reopen our schools as quickly as possible – the science and data show that we can do so safely, and the governor’s own numbers indicate that transmission in schools for teachers is nearly zero. The impact school closures are having on student mental health, social wellbeing, and academic achievement has been devastating, and the governor’s choice to delay reopening schools until now may have long-term consequences.

It is good to see the governor has finally acknowledged what we’ve known for months – it’s time to get our students safely back in the classroom.

Reopening Minn. for business 

Covid numbers are going down. More kids are returning to school. So when are we going to get around to opening our state for business?

That’s a good question because, while the governor has slightly loosened restrictions in recent days, he has not put out any real blueprint or timetable to help Minnesotans understand his decision-making process.

In the meantime, House Republicans have been working with members of the business community to outline a plan to wind down the governor’s emergency powers, establish timeline for reopening, and provide trigger mechanisms in the event of case spikes. The mission is to ensure there are clear, predictable, data-driven metrics that determine future closings/reopenings. 

The conversation has to start somewhere, so this gives us a starting point. A press conference on this subject is here

DVS open Saturdays 

Numerous Department of Vehicle Services sites, including in St. Cloud, will be open on Saturdays through March 27 in order to help thousands of people who were granted driver’s license renewal extensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic complete the task.

About 200,000 Minnesotans have regular Class D driver’s licenses that expired during the pandemic and need to get them renewed before the end of March. The commercial driver’s license deadline to renew is Feb. 28. It will take time to process these licenses, so people are urged to take care of this soon. Click here for more.

Energy column 

California has experienced an unreliable power grid. Texas has suffered catastrophic power outages. Now, the impacts recently have been felt in Minnesota, with rolling blackouts in parts of our state.

While there may be different factors contributing to each scenario, and I am not drawing a line in the sand against using renewable energy, the fact remains: We need a reliable, diverse grid in Minnesota to ensure affordable energy is there when we need it most. It is good to have options.

I submitted a column to area newspapers in our district this week and you can click here for the full text.



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